IPC World Cup

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With the exception of an occasional star like Lindsay Vonn or Bode Miller, Americans are not too familiar with the skiers of the United States Ski Association (USSA). The aforementioned stars are representatives of the Alpine (or downhill) ski team which garners most of the media attention because of the excitement of this discipline and its suitability for television viewing. Nordic (cross country) skiing receives far less attention even though the United States produced a World Champion in sprint skiing and has become a dominant force in Nordic combined – an event which combines cross country skiing along with ski jumping. Only a tiny minority of our population is aware that the United States has a ski team competing in both Alpine and Nordic events made up of athletes who have one of three different classified disabilities such as amputation/limb loss (standing class), blindness/visual impairment (visually impaired class), spinal cord injury/wheelchair-users and cerebral palsy/brain injury/stroke (seated class). These athletes participate in international competitions under the rules of the International Paralympics Committee.

Telemark Lodge in Cable, Wisconsin was the home of a Nordic World Cup ski event this past January. This was the second time this event was held there. The original site for this event was supposed to have been in Poland, but that fell through so the Paralympics organizers approached Telemark about holding the event again based on the success of the previously held 2011 races.

Pulling off an event of this magnitude is no small feat, even with perfect skiing conditions. The host site must first be able to handle the different needs of each skiing classification, and then compounding this challenge is the fact that this is an international event with representatives from across the globe speaking a multitude of different languages. The athletes arriving at Telemark were greeted by enthusiastic volunteers, and a lot of brown grass: Northwest Wisconsin was experiencing a mild winter with little snow.

Led by the tireless efforts of Yuriy Gusev, the director of a local skiing development organization called CXC, an army volunteers, and snowmaking equipment Telemark was once again able to pull of a successful event! Below 0° temperatures forced the race officials to move up several events, condensing a week and a half race series into less than a week.

The seated class racers ski on adapted sleds, using only their upper body to propel them down the track. The visually impaired skiers must follow a sighted-guide who can provide verbal instructions but is restricted to physical contact in defined areas only. The standing class skis using only one arm. Uphill, downhill, around tight corners, and sprinting toward the finish: these skiers are really good! In addition to cross country skiing, there is also a biathlon competition in which the skier after completing a certain distance has to shoot a small-bore rifle at a target that is the size of a dime.

The US team represented our nation proud with several podium finishes. After Telemark many of them were off to Sweden for another World Cup race. The primary goal for all the participating athletes is to represent their respective countries in the 2014 Paralympics in Sochi, Russia.

There was not a single attendee to these races who wasn’t moved by the efforts and results of these amazing athletes. Most of the male sit classification skiers are former members of the US military. One such skier, Andy Soule, won a bronze medal in the biathlon at the 2010 Paralympics in Vancouver, BC Canada. A visually impaired Canadian skier, Brian McKeever, has finished near the top in several skiing events against sighted skiers.

Photo Above: Mike Jorgensen with two Paralympic Ski Team members at the Telemark Lodge.

The US team was represented by the following members:

Men

  • Omar Bermejo (Grand Rapids, Mich.), ret., Marines
  • Kevin Burton (Boulder, Colo.), ret., Navy
  • Dan Cnossen (Jamestown, Mich.), Navy*
  • Travis Dodson (Deming, N.M.), ret, Marines
  • Eric Frazier (Maple Hill, N.C.), ret., Marines*
  • Sean Halsted (Spokane, Wash./Twin Lakes, Idaho), ret., Air Force*
  • Augusto Perez (East Syracuse, N.Y.)^
  • John Oman (Hudson, Wis.)
  • Aaron Pike (Park Rapids, Minn.)
  • Andy Soule (Pearland, Texas), ret., Army*
  • Jeremy Wagner (Honolulu, Hawaii), ret., Army Reserves*

Women

  • Alicia Brelsford Dana (Putney, Vt.)
  • Oksana Masters (Louisville, Ky.)
  • Tatyana McFadden (Clarksville, Md.)
  • Beth Requist (Grand Lake, Colo.)
  • Kristy Vaughn (Corry, Pa.)

A quick Google search on any of these athletes will yield amazing results in a plethora of stories of perseverance and ultimate achievement.

Impressions Inc. was proud to help in a small way by being a sponsor for this great event.

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Author: Nicole Hannover

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